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Is 2012 campaign Bush vs. Kerry all over again? If so, who is Bush? (+video)

The similarities between the two campaigns are striking, with partisans for President Obama and Mitt Romney saying their candidate is in a better position.

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Earlier this week, however, the liberal blog Daily Kos made the opposite case. It compared the Oct. 20 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which showed Obama and Romney tied at 47 percent among likely voters, with the Oct. 20, 2004 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, which showed Bush and Kerry tied among likely voters at 48 percent – an almost identical result. But among registered voters, the 2012 poll showed Obama up by 5 points, while the 2004 poll showed Bush up by just 2 points, which led the site to argue Obama is actually in a slightly better position than Bush.

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Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.

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A more important difference than variations in the national polls, however, may be differences in individual states – since, in order to win the White House, a candidate must get to 270 electoral votes.

The RCP poll average for Ohio right now has Obama up by 2.1 – which happens to be exactly the same margin Bush held in the RCP average for the final week of the campaign in 2004 (and his actual margin of victory in the state).

But the trend line is different: looking back at all the Ohio polls of 2004, Kerry actually held a lead in roughly half of them, whereas this time around, very few have shown Romney ahead. Obama has been ahead in more than 80 percent of Ohio polls taken during the past year.

Since Romney is essentially trying to replicate Bush’s electoral map (with one or two states swapped out), it's worth looking at where he stands in those battleground states, vis a vis Bush at this point in the 2004 race. And there it appears Romney may face a steeper climb.

He’s already almost certain to lose at least one state Bush won (New Mexico), though he has a shot at winning two states Bush lost (New Hampshire, and to a lesser extent, Wisconsin). More to the point, a comparison of the 2012 and 2004 polls shows Romney is behind where Bush was at this point in the race in Ohio, Nevada, Iowa, Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina – all states Bush won, and most of which Romney needs in his column. The only battleground state Bush won where Romney is currently running slightly ahead of Bush is Florida.

That could change, of course. But right now, it means his odds of winning appear slimmer than Bush’s were eight years ago.  


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